On Friday, April 5th, 2024, NBCSL hosted a panel discussion on Prescription Drug Affordability Boards (PDABs) in Houston, Texas. The discussion was moderated by Senator London Lamar (TN), and the panel consisted of Dr. Maisha Standifer, Director of Health Policy at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute within the Morehouse School of Medicine; Melissa Gong Mitchell, Executive Director of the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA); and Maimah Karmo, Founder of the Tigerlily Foundation.

The focus of the panel was on how PDABs may impact the availability of prescription drugs.

Dr. Standifer opened the panel with a description of the importance of prescription drug access for Black people. She described how a high proportion of Black people are on multiple medications, and how a disruption in access would further exacerbate existing health disparities.

Ms. Melissa Mitchell conversation with an overview of what PDABs are and why they are being considered by state governments. Ms. Mitchell also explained what upper payment limits (UPLs) were, and how there is an absence of evidence on how UPLs would directly impact how much Black citizens pay for their prescription medications.

Panelist Maimah Karmo provided a compelling example of the life-saving impact of prescription drugs, being a survivor of breast cancer. During her testimony, she elucidated the effects breast cancer had on her life, expressing her struggle for representation. Doctors initially dismissed her claims of cancer due to her young age, prompting a candid conversation about Black and brown representation in healthcare and the significance of having someone who understands cultural norms within affected communities.

The conversation continued with Maimah explaining the exorbitant cost of her medication, with ten lifesaving pills costing $1,000. This prompted discussion on how legislation and partnerships can aid in regulating the availability and pricing of prescription drugs. The discussion further explored how different states approach health equity and healthcare availability, with a focus on Medicaid, Medicare, and legislative intervention to negotiate drug pricing and expand care, particularly for low-income communities of color.

The panel concluded with a Q&A session, allowing legislators to ask questions and delve deeper into the topics and experiences expressed by the panelists. Representative Myers of District 12 in Wisconsin posed a particularly noteworthy question: "How can we improve representation in healthcare and what can be done about PDABs?" Panelists stressed the importance of legislation and having a diverse group of individuals on PDABs, with Maurice McCants elaborating on efforts in Philadelphia. Mr. McCants explained how Philadelphia mandates cultural competency training for doctors before working and sets up incentives for healthcare providers to promote diversity and find alternatives to quality and affordable care within the communities they serve.

Overall, the discussion was deemed a tremendous success, with panelists feeling that their insights were well received, and legislators indicating that they learned helpful information on PDABs and the critical importance of continued access to prescription medications for communities of color.

NBCSL Region X Panel Presentation – PDABs and Health Equity